Many of you will know “Otira” the 1902 Oil Launch I restored in 2008 and have displayed at various classic boat get togethers since. For those who don’t know its history and the restoration job which took 2 years and then some, here is how it goes.
She was built as an open boat 21’ 6”x 7’2” beam with a 6Hp oil powered Union engine which were becoming popular around the world at that time. Built by Logan Bros, who interestingly built 10 others that year all around a similar length but varied in hull style, some with long counter sterns ( a left over from sailboats) but “Otira” had a tuck stern i.e. a flat transom with rudder hung aft. Oil launch was a term used to discriminate from what would have been their predecessors, the steam launch. With the advent of oil fuelled engines (really a kerosene petrol sort of stuff) only a few years prior, it allowed much smaller boats to be built and most of these were open with combings round an oblong cockpit.
“Otira” was soon shipped to Christchurch where it was used on the estuary, then later at Kaiapoi plying the Waimakariri River til she arrived at Charteris Bay in 1934, from where I purchased her in 2005. By 1934, she had grown a small cabin, which changed a couple more times ‘til 2005. I was told to restore a boat it must be original in all possible ways. As I found a photo in the Auckland Memorial Museum of Otira on her launching day, the die was cast to end up with a completely unsuitable boat for Lyttelton Harbour conditions – windy, lumpy with cold spray going everywhere.
“Otira” was now under the care of Tim, a very good mechanic who got the 1957 Stuart Turner running, but not to his satisfaction, so with no parts available such as injector pump etc, resulted on a lot of calling to our neighbours to raid the old spare parts box stored in our back shed. But to no avail. Mahurangi and Rotoiti Regattas came and went while Messrs Stuart and Turners creation had still not responded. The Trust lent us a very nice 2005 built replica picnic boat named “Sarah Hutton”, for some unknown reason, as they toiled with her. Built by Robert Brook for a super yacht USA owner as a toy, this boat was paid for but the owner never took delivery so decided she could go to a good home and the Trust now looks after her. We had a text while at Rotoiti from Jason, who gave us a live recording of the engine purring just as we finished the parade! She had never sounded so good!
The Regattas were a high light of our journey north as they were spectacular and in fine conditions in contrast with the rest of our six weeks trip. At Mahuarangi, nearly all the restored yachts in Auckland sailed in 3 divisions, as well as the small craft launched from Sullivan’s Bay taking part in their own races. Even the Frostbites had their own race. These were sailed out from the huge number of yachts and launches which came to witness this event. We had our Resta-Raft camper parked beside the beach and the previous night we watched the bay fill with these craft coming from Auckland and around the area. By 6pm we counted 72 and by the morning at 7am I counted 140 odd and they still kept coming.